American Sexual Health Association (ASHA)
Who We Are
ASHA was founded in 1914 in New York City, formed out of early 20th century social reform movements focused on fighting sexually transmitted infections (known then as venereal disease, or VD) and prostitution. Now, more than 100 years after its creation, ASHA remains America’s nonprofit authority for sexual health information.
The American Sexual Health Association promotes the sexual health of individuals, families and communities by advocating sound policies and practices and educating the public, professionals and policy makers, in order to foster healthy sexual behaviors and relationships and prevent adverse health outcomes.
Our Vision and Values
The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) envisions a world where sexual and reproductive health and rights are universally recognized, and where comprehensive sexual health information and services are accessible and available to all, free from coercion, violence, and discrimination across the lifespan.
ASHA believes that all people have the right to the information and services that will help them to have optimum sexual health. We envision a time when stigma is no longer associated with sexual health and our nation is united in its belief that sexuality is a normal, healthy, and positive aspect of human life.
Read about ASHA’s early history in this article from Linnea Anderson, archivist at the Social Welfare History Archives at the University of Minnesota. The essay is published in Creating a Sexually Healthy Nation.
ASHA is America’s authority for sexual health information. We are an award-winning and trusted 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has advocated on behalf of those at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) since 1914.
ASHA was founded as the American Social Hygiene Association in 1914 by a group of public health reformers committed to attacking an undesirable social condition–venereal disease, or VD–that they believed could be improved through medical and educational means. The shame and reluctance to talk about sexuality was now weakened enough so that the public was at least generally aware of the dangers posed by VD. This was the first social marketing effort to mix physical and moral fitness for prevention of VD.
An early ASHA supporter was Thomas N. Hepburn, M.D., who joined after attending to a young woman who had died of acute gonorrheal peritonitis just months after her marriage to a man whose friends had put him to bed with a prostitute at his bachelor party. Additional founders include Charles W. Eliot, President Emeritus, Harvard University, Jane Addams, Hull House, Chicago, Martha P. Falconer, a pioneering social worker, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and William F. Snow, M.D., Stanford University professor.
1914: American Social Hygiene Association was founded.
1920s: John D. Rockefeller, Jr. commits funds to support ASHA’s mission.
1927: ASHA establishes the Valentine’s Day Committee to promote sexual responsibility.
1937: ASHA collaborates with the Federal Council of Churches and the National Congress of Parents and Teachers to promote sex education programs. ASHA also establishes the Nation’s first Social Hygiene Day.
1940: ASHA, the U.S. Public Health Service, and the military agree to coordinate efforts to control venereal diseases in the event of war.
1945: Boxer Joe Louis joins ASHA for a major public awareness campaign.
1954: ASHA begins to monitor rates of venereal disease by collecting data that was then analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Today’s VD Control Problem” published by ASHA until 1975. ASHA testifies before Congress, as it continues to do today, to urge adequate federal appropriations for VD control.
1959: ASHA changes its name to the American Social Health Association.
1970s: Dramatic rise in sexually transmitted infection rates because of international travel, the sexual revolution, gay liberation and increasing drug use. Scientists recognizing more and more sexually transmitted pathogens. Genital herpes, human Papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B identified.
1973: ASHA launches its first modern public awareness campaign, VD is for Everybody
1979: ASHA creates the National Herpes Resource Center, which includes the National Herpes Hotline.
1986: ASHA opens National AIDS Hotline, the largest health-related hotline in the world.
1998: ASHA establishes the National STD Action Plan, the HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention Resource Center, and Stop the Spread of Herpes Campaign.
1999: ASHA opens the National HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention Resource Center with hotline.
2012: ASHA changes its name to the American Sexual Health Association.
We have a long history of delivering the facts, the support, and the resources to answer your questions, find referrals, join support groups, and get access to in-depth information about sexually transmitted infections and sexual health. You can be assured that the information you find on this website is based upon well-researched and documented medical facts.
ASHA specializes in communications outreach to the public, patients, press, providers, and policy makers by developing and delivering sensitive health information through many vehicles such as our websites, ashasexualhealth.org, iwannaknow.org (for teens and young adults), quierosaber.org (in Spanish), and nccc-online.org (site of the ASHA program, National Cervical Cancer Coaliton).
Public and college health clinics across the United States order ASHA’s educational pamphlets and books to give to clients and students. Community-based organizations depend on ASHA, too, to help communicate about sexual health information.
PO Box 13827
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
President and Chief Executive Officer
Lynn BarclayLynn Barclay has led ASHA in the position of President and CEO since July 2006. Ms. Barclay builds and maintains relationships with colleague organizations, from the American Sexual Transmitted Diseases Association (ASTDA), to the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, Ms. Barclay serves as a liaison to other national organizations, including the Planned Parenthood National Medical Committee and the National Chlamydia Coalition’s Steering Committee, of which she was a founding member.
Prior to her work with ASHA, Ms. Barclay served in executive positions in a variety of nonprofit organizations, including Children’s Home Society in Florida and the United Way of America. Ms. Barclay also worked as a nonprofit management consultant. In this capacity, she advised a wide variety of organizations on strategic planning, outreach, fund development and programming. Clients ranged from large and small organizations as varied as the Salvation Army to community choral arts groups.
Vice President, Health Policy
Deborah ArrindellDeborah Arrindell has provided leadership to ASHA’s policy and advocacy efforts for more than 12 years. She currently manages ASHA’s office in Washington, DC, where she advocates on behalf of ASHA before legislative, administrative and private agencies on issues related to the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and access to comprehensive sexual health information. With more than 30 years of experience in social policy and health policy issues, Ms. Arrindell develops and implements short-term and long-term strategies to influence policies that impact sexual health, with an emphasis on prevention of sexually transmitted infections and enhancing awareness of the burden and impact of STIs on adolescents, women and people of color.
Vice President, Strategic Partnerships
In the role of VP of Strategic Partnerships, Kay works closely with the CEO and VP of Health Policy to develop, shape, communicate and implement ASHA’s National strategy. She leads all Merger and Acquisitions as well as Licensing and Alliance activities for the organization. She oversees Transformational Initiatives, including the Organizational Design evolution. Prior to joining ASHA Kay led in executive positions locally and statewide in teen pregnancy prevention and reproductive health. She came to ASHA with over 20 years of experience in leadership development, strategic planning, programming, community outreach and grant writing. She currently serves on the NC School Health Alliance Board and is a former Board of Education member.
Board of Directors
Keith Walsh :: Chair
New York, NY
Debra Hauser :: Vice Chair
Advocates for Youth
Mamta Singhvi, MD :: Secretary
UCLA Health System
Los Angeles, CA
Susan Wysocki, WHNP-BC, FAANP :: Treasurer
Hilda Hutcherson, MD
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, NY
National Cervical Cancer Coalition
Woodland Hills, CA
Abraham Morgentaler, MD, FACS
Men’s Health Boston
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
New York, NY
Michael Ross, MD, PhD, MPH, MHPEd, MSt
University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
Maria Trent, MD, MPH
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Eric R. Wright, PhD
School of Public Health Georgia State University
President and CEO
Our youth today are growing up in a culture that surrounds them with sexual imagery and messages—but one in which marriage is often delayed until the late twenties or later. Historically, public health prevention messages have singled out abstinence until marriage as the most effective way to remain free of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Yet while abstinence is a fundamentally important aspect of preventing STIs, but this message alone does not serve well in the absence of comprehensive sexual education and a supportive environment. ASHA believes young people deserve balanced, accurate, and realistic sex education, as well as access to confidential sexual health services.
Comprehensive Sex Ed
Research clearly shows that comprehensive sex education programs do not encourage teens to start having sexual intercourse, do not increase the frequency with which teens have intercourse, and do not increase the number of a teen’s sexual partners. Research also shows that sex education programs that promote abstinence only have in fact proven ineffective.
Federal appropriations for abstinence-only education programs have exceeded $1 billion since 1982. However, reviews have found that none of the programs has shown a positive impact on sexual behavior or STDs over time. Furthermore, some research shows that young adults who made virginity pledges (to abstain from sexual intercourse until marriage) as teens ultimately have rates of STIs similar to young adults who did not make such promises as teens and are less likely to use contraception or protection when they do become sexually active.
A position paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine published in the Journal of Adolescent Health discussed two reviews that evaluated the evidence supporting abstinence-only programs and comprehensive sexuality education programs designed to promote abstinence. As the authors note, “Neither review found scientific evidence that abstinence-only programs demonstrate efficacy in delaying initiation of sexual intercourse. Likewise, research on adolescents taking virginity pledges suggest that failure rates for the pledge are very high, especially when biological outcomes such as STIs are considered. Although it has been suggested that abstinence-only education is 100% effective, these studies suggest that, in actual practice, efficacy may approach zero.”
If you are an educator who supports comprehensive sex education, we hope you find this site and our site for teens and young adults—iwannaknow.org-—useful resources for both you and your students. Both sites offer information on sexual health for teens and young adults, including comprehensive information on sexually transmitted infections, as well as information on healthy relationships, and more.
Our publications site — ashapublications.org —offers a variety of educational materials, including books, pamphlets, and novelty items. Our award-winning booklet, Be an Askable Parent, is a valued resource for parents wanting to establish and maintain open and honest communication with their child throughout all stages of his or her life.
The Kinsey Report
Following the release of the landmark research “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” from the Kinsey Institute, ASHA decided to dedicate its annual conference of state and local social hygiene associations to a discussion of the report. The research (which, along with “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” released in 1953, would come to be known as “The Kinsey Reports”) sparked controversy, but ASHA sought to focus on the report as scientific data rather than pornography.
The Kinsey Report (Continued)
In his comments for the report for the conference, ASHA Executive Director Walter Clarke noted, “We do not conceive of sexual behavior as an isolated phenomenon but as part of the expression of each individual, influenced by many factors in the previous experience and environment of human beings . . . It can scarcely be doubted that this study as a whole, considered in its proper setting, will influence the strategy of efforts devoted to the improvement of human welfare in which sexual behavior plays an important role.”